Smear Campaign Against Oregon Principal for Christian Beliefs (Part 2)
by Sarah Williams, Ph.D.
The state may not establish a “religion of secularism” in the sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus “preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe.” Refusal to permit religious exercises thus is seen, not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism.
—U.S. Supreme Court, Abington Township v. Schempp (1963)
In the Bulletin’s October 16 article, they clarified that the Bend-La Pine school district completed an investigation and concluded that DeWittie “had not violated district policies.” Clearly the district did their homework and rightly concluded that educator’s have the right to their personal beliefs. However, they shed light on the source of the smear campaign by writing: “a spokeswoman for Bend-La Pine Schools said a district resident filed a complaint that stemmed from DeWittie’s writings, alleging her religious views were interfering with the district’s obligation to provide a secular education.”
Clarification #2: The individual who filed the original complaint wrongly assumes that public schools are obligated to provide a “secular education.” This is incorrect. The Supreme Court (e.g. see above) has ruled in numerous cases that public schools are obligated to provide a balanced education. In fact, the Supreme Court recognizes secularism as an actual religion. In other words, if you extract reasonable inclusion of all religious content out of public schools, you end up with a religion of secularism. This is not neutrality and is Constitutionally illegal.
The only reason we clarify the above point is to show how misinformed many people are within the public school system and culture. The person who filed a complaint against DeWittie did so because that person did not like what she believed and did not want a person with those beliefs to be employed by the district. That is a clear example of viewpoint discrimination.
The Source, infamous for twisting the words of Christians over the years (we speak from experience), published this in a recent article promoting the smear campaign: “Contact the school board, message the superintendent, discuss the issue with your fellow parents and neighbors. We the public cannot sit idly by and let this transgression of contemporary rationality and separation of church and state go by without comment or fight.”
The article wrongly confuses one’s personal beliefs with the “separation of church and state” (see our previous blog if you want to dig into the topic of “separation of church and state” further, a phrase that is not even in the Constitution). The Source has published similar anti-Christian articles in the past. Does The Source advocate that we prevent Muslims from being employed in public schools because of certain controversial teachings within their religion? Shall we not let an Orthodox Jew teach in our public schools because they feel their faith informs their approach to teaching? I can tell you that any person of faith who takes their religious beliefs seriously will look at their job through the lens of their faith. Those are their personal beliefs, which are protected by law. What you may not do as a public school employee is proselytize those beliefs during school hours. So let’s call this smear campaign for what it is: discrimination, plain and simple.
Clarification #3: How do we respond to the kind of Constitutional ignorance presented in the Source and snowballing within the social media outlets? We have noticed a hesitation and confusion within the Christian community to engage in dialogue surrounding these issues. I feel this confusion stems from Christians not truly understanding the legal background, as well as feeling fearful of persecution in an increasingly hostile culture. The purpose of this blog is certainly not to encourage any sort of backlash or inappropriate anger towards others in our community. Our desire is to start a productive dialogue about the Establishment and Freedom of Religion clauses. In the wake of recent hostility and misinformation concerning Christians in public schools, our hope is that Christians will pray, engage, and speak the truth in love.